Terrorism without Mens Rea?

We’ve had our share of disagreements about the semantics of “terrorism” on this blog, but I think we can all admit that this claim, (supposedly) made by Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) about the recent shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, makes no sense at all. From a story in The New York Times:

Senator Rick Scott of Florida, also a Republican, said the attack should be considered terrorism, regardless of the gunman’s motivation.

If we eliminate the gunman’s motivation altogether, then all we’re left with is the fact that a Saudi trainee shot some people at a naval air base. That fact by itself is consistent with an accident. But however we define it, an act of terrorism can’t be an accident. Continue reading

Don’t Lean On Me

The New York Times recently reported this case, involving a high school English teacher fired for tweets she sent President Trump:

A high school English teacher in Texas who was fired after she sent tweets to President Trump asking him to rid her school of undocumented immigrants should be reinstated or be paid a year’s salary, a state agency ruled this week.

This is a case where (assuming the truth of the accusations against her) I can see the merit in complaints that the teacher created a hostile, even dangerous environment for students. But the facts of the case are somewhat unclear or contested, so I’m going to bypass that issue. Continue reading

Pete Buttigieg, Iowa, and Character-Based Voting

I am colossally overdue in finally editing and posting the fifth installment in my supposedly five-installment-long series on character-based voting. Resolution: before the year is out. But here, at any rate, is a passing thought on that same subject, inspired by a New York Times article on Pete Buttigieg. In previous posts on this topic, I’ve tried to flesh out the ways in which character might be relevant to justified voting. An indirect route to that same end is to reflect on a case where it’s mostly (or largely) irrelevant. Continue reading

Happy Thanksthieving*

Sometimes, my cynicism about our national holidays even starts to get to me. But not today. So here I am, bright and early, to crap on Thanksgiving. For most people, Thanksgiving is a feel-good holiday about gratitude for God’s plenty and the wonders of mutual understanding in a multicultural context. For me, it’s about theft, lies, self-delusion, and worst of all, football. So here are some downer, myth-busting pieces on Thanksgiving. Continue reading

Vile, Stupid, and Tenured

I rarely praise university administrators, but then, I rarely have the opportunity to do so. For once, an opportunity presents itself:

The provost did not mince her words about the opinions of a professor on her campus. His views were racist, sexist and homophobic, she wrote in a statement this week. They were “vile and stupid,” she said, and “more consistent with someone who lived in the 18th century than the 21st.”

But the provost, Lauren Robel of Indiana University Bloomington, was equally clear on another point: The First Amendment prohibited the university from firing the professor, Eric Rasmusen, for expressing those views. “That is not a close call,” wrote Professor Robel, who also teaches at the law school.

The unusually candid statement quickly drew attention from students, academics and lawyers, many of whom praised the provost for publicly excoriating the professor’s opinions while respecting one of the nation’s basic freedoms.

For once, a provost who’s struck the right balance between bureaucratic amoralism and opportunistic, pseudo-moralistic pandering. She’s absolutely right: firing Rasmusen is not a close call; neither is condemning him. The only close call is whether he should have been hired in the first place, but that ship has sailed. Continue reading

The Unwarranted Demonization of Scot Peterson (5): “It Was Chaos”

This article is (in most but not all respects) a useful corrective to the reflexive, unwarranted demonization of Scot Peterson over the Parkland shooting of 2018. The “chaos” to which the article refers arose because it was unclear where “the” shooter was, and how many shooters there were. Unfortunately, like so much journalism on this topic, the article seems to suggest that there was chaos for everyone but Scot Peterson, who infallibly knew that there was one shooter, and knew in real time exactly (or even approximately) where this shooter was. Just to be clear: there is no evidence in the public domain that indicates this. The evidence indicates the reverse: that he did not know how many shooters there were, or where any of these shooters were. Continue reading

Police Tailgating and Entrapment Revisited

Since I’ve been revisiting so many things lately, and Roderick just posted his PPE presentation from last year (which I missed), I figured I’d revisit the topic of police tailgating and entrapment that I mentioned here last year. Down below is the (alas, rejected) abstract proposal I sent to the forthcoming PPE conference.  Below the abstract, I’ve pasted a few interesting cases I’ve recently encountered of what I take to be entrapment on my account of it.

I gave an earlier version of the tailgating paper this past July at the NASSP conference in San Francisco, where it was mostly met with puzzlement. The main objection from the audience was that my account of entrapment-by-intimidation was, in some sense, too revisionary to count as entrapment. Police tailgating to induce a moving violation was, most people granted, a due process injustice of some kind–just not a case of entrapment. I was surprised to encounter a small handful of people who didn’t think that police tailgating was either entrapment or a due process injustice of any kind. But I guess weirdos like that are what conferences are for. Continue reading

Aristotelian Welfare and Libertarianism Revisited

I seem to be revisiting a lot of things lately–first reparations, now this. Anyway, you may have noticed this down on the pingbacks, but there’s a long response here to my November 2 post (and exchange with Roderick) on the tensions between Aristotelianism and libertarianism. The post is called “The Shallowness of Secular Ethical Systems,” the blog is called Politics and Prosperity, and the author’s pen-name is Loquitur Veritatem, or truth teller. This last piece of information will come as a shock to anyone who (like me) thought Policy of Truth was the repository of all truths worth knowing. Continue reading